People v. Superior Court, No. S099542.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtCHIN, J.
Citation28 Cal.4th 798,50 P.3d 743,123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of Los Angeles County, Respondent; Rodrigo Alberto JIMENEZ, Real Party in Interest.
Decision Date01 August 2002
Docket NumberNo. S099542.

123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31
28 Cal.4th 798
50 P.3d 743

The PEOPLE, Petitioner,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT of Los Angeles County, Respondent; Rodrigo Alberto JIMENEZ, Real Party in Interest

No. S099542.

Supreme Court of California.

August 1, 2002.

Rehearing Denied September 18, 2002.


123 Cal.Rptr.2d 33
Steve Cooley, District Attorney, George M. Palmer, Head Deputy District Attorney, Brentford J. Ferreira and Brent Riggs, Deputy District Attorneys, for Petitioner

No appearance for Respondent.

Michael P. Judge, Public Defender, Judith Greenberg, Mark Harvis and John Hamilton Scott, Deputy Public Defenders, for Real Party In Interest.

Steven J. Carroll, Public Defender (San Diego) and Matthew C. Braner, Deputy Public Defender, for San Diego Public Defenders Office as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.

123 Cal.Rptr.2d 32
CHIN, J

The Legislature has provided that when a felony case is dismissed because a magistrate or court granted a motion to suppress evidence, making the evidence insufficient, the prosecution may refile the case and relitigate the suppression motion. (Pen.Code, § 1538.5, subd. (j).) However, the Legislature has also provided that the relitigated motion "shall be heard by the same judge who granted the motion at the first hearing if the judge is available." (Pen.Code, § 1538.5, subd. (p); see Soil v. Superior Court (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 872, 64 Cal.Rptr.2d 319.) We granted review primarily to decide whether the prosecution may peremptorily challenge that judge under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6, thus making the judge unavailable to hear the relitigated suppression motion.

To allow the prosecution to peremptorily challenge the judge, or judge acting as a magistrate, who decided the first suppression motion would sanction the forum shopping the Legislature prohibited when it enacted Penal Code section 1538.5, subdivision (p). Accordingly, we conclude that, notwithstanding a peremptory challenge, that judge or magistrate, if otherwise available, remains available to hear the relitigated suppression motion. We also conclude that a party may file in the superior court a petition for writ of mandate contesting the validity of a peremptory challenge to a magistrate.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In April 2000, defendant was charged by felony complaint with possessing cocaine. At the preliminary hearing, he moved to suppress evidence pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5. Judge Michael E. Pastor, a superior court judge acting as a magistrate, granted the motion and then dismissed the case for insufficient evidence. The prosecution refiled the matter, charging the same offense based on

123 Cal.Rptr.2d 34
the same facts. The case was originally assigned to Judge Marlene Kristovich. Defendant again moved to suppress the evidence and requested the motion be assigned to Judge Pastor. Judge Kristovich granted the request and assigned the motion to Judge Pastor to conduct the hearing as a magistrate. The prosecution challenged Judge Pastor under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6. Judge Pastor accepted the challenge and returned the case to Judge Kristovich

Thereafter, defendant filed a petition for writ of mandate in the superior court contesting Judge Pastor's disqualification. He argued that Penal Code section 1538.5, subdivision (p), gave him the right to have the same judge rehear the suppression motion. Judge Stephen E. O'Neil issued the writ and ordered Judge Pastor to hear the suppression motion. The People then filed the instant petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal challenging this ruling. The Court of Appeal held that defendant should have filed the underlying writ petition in the Court of Appeal rather than superior court, but it also decided the merits of the question. It held that a judge who has been peremptorily challenged under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6 is not available to hear the new suppression motion.

We granted defendant's petition to review (1) whether defendant properly filed the underlying writ petition in the superior court; and (2) whether Penal Code section 1538.5, subdivision (p), limits the People's ability to exercise a peremptory challenge under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6.

II. DISCUSSION

A. A Party May File in the Superior Court a Petition for Writ of Mandate Contesting the Validity of a Challenge to a Magistrate.

As explained further below, a party to an action may generally challenge a judge peremptorily under Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6. Code of Civil Procedure section 170.3, subdivision (d), enacted in 1984, provides the exclusive means for seeking review of a ruling on a peremptory challenge to a judge. (People v. Hull (1991) 1 Cal.4th 266, 2 Cal.Rptr.2d 526, 820 P.2d 1036.) That subdivision provides: "The determination of the question of the disqualification of a judge is not an appealable order and may be reviewed only by a writ of mandate from the appropriate court of appeal sought within 10 days of notice to the parties of the decision and only by the parties to the proceeding." (Code Civ. Proc, § 170.3, subd. (d), italics added.) Here, defendant sought review in the superior court, not the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal held that only it could consider the challenge and, accordingly, the superior court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. We disagree. Judge Pastor, although a judge of the superior court, was acting as a magistrate in this matter. The superior court generally has jurisdiction to review matters involving a magistrate. Accordingly, the superior court is an "appropriate court of appeal" in a writ proceeding involving the disqualification of a magistrate.

Article VI, section 10, of the California Constitution grants superior courts and their judges original jurisdiction in mandamus proceedings concurrently with this court and the Courts of Appeal. A superior court may exercise this jurisdiction by issuing writs of mandamus "to any inferior tribunal, corporation, board, or person ...." (Code Civ. Proc, § 1085, subd. (a).) A magistrate is generally considered inferior to the superior court. (See People v. Uhlemann (1973) 9 Cal.3d 662, 666-669, 108 Cal.Rptr. 657, 511 P.2d 609.) The Legislature has generally provided

123 Cal.Rptr.2d 35
for superior court review of the magistrate's rulings. (Pen.Code, §§ 871.5 [superior court may review magistrate's dismissal of action], 995, subd. (a)(2) [superior court may review whether magistrate legally committed defendant].) We see no reason why the Legislature would want to require the parties, in effect, to skip over the superior court in matters involving the disqualification of a magistrate when that court otherwise reviews that magistrate's rulings.

In enacting Code of Civil Procedure section 170.3, subdivision (d), the Legislature sought to ensure "that the parties, through a petition for a writ of mandate, receive `"as speedy an appellate determination as possible."'" (People v. Hull, supra, 1 Cal.4th at p. 273, 2 Cal. Rptr.2d 526, 820 P.2d 1036.) Litigating questions regarding the qualifications of a magistrate in the superior court furthers this goal; requiring the parties to seek review in the Court of Appeal would hinder it. As defendant notes, requiring a party to litigate the validity of a challenge to a magistrate in the Court of Appeal could result in the parties litigating the validity of the magistrate's order simultaneously in both the superior court and the Court of Appeal. If a party unsuccessfully challenges the magistrate, who then either holds the defendant to answer the charge or dismisses the action, the validity of the challenge would have to be litigated in the Court of Appeal while the correctness of the magistrate's order would be litigated in the superior court. In attempting to ensure speedy appellate determination of judicial challenges, the Legislature can hardly have intended such a result.

In the past, courts have at least assumed the superior court was a proper forum to litigate the correctness of a challenge involving an inferior court. In Solberg v. Superior Court (1977) 19 Cal.3d 182, 188, 137 Cal.Rptr. 460, 561 P.2d 1148, for example, the People contested the refusal of a municipal court judge to accept a peremptory challenge by filing a petition for a writ of mandate in the superior court. No one questioned the propriety of that procedure, and we eventually reviewed the matter on the merits. Although Solberg was decided before the Legislature enacted Code of Civil Procedure section 170.3, subdivision (d), we see no indication the Legislature intended to modify this procedure.

We have no doubt that when the Legislature refers to the "court of appeal," often, perhaps generally, it means the intermediate Courts of Appeal. But here it added the qualifying term "appropriate." In this specific context, it is appropriate for the court that normally reviews the rulings of a challenged judge also to review issues involving the validity of that challenge. The Legislature has otherwise provided for superior court review of a magistrate's orders. (Pen.Code, §§ 871.5, 995.) Accordingly, we conclude that the superior court, and not just the intermediate Courts of Appeal, is an appropriate court in which to contest the grant or denial of a motion to disqualify a magistrate.

The fact that Los Angeles County recently unified its municipal and superior courts does not affect this result. Proposition 220, enacted in 1998, permitted the voluntary unification of the municipal and the superior courts. As a result, a majority vote of both the superior court judges and the municipal court judges could abolish the municipal courts within a county and establish a unified superior court for that county. (Snukal v. Flightways Manufacturing, Inc. (2000) 23 Cal.4th 754, 763, fn. 2, 98 Cal.Rptr.2d 1, 3 P.3d 286; In re Ramirez (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 1312, 1315-1316, 108 Cal.Rptr.2d 229.) Los Angeles

123 Cal.Rptr.2d 36
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59 practice notes
  • People v. Panah, No. S045504.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 14, 2005
    ...claim is not properly before us on this automatic appeal following a judgment of death"]; People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 802, 123 Cal. Rptr.2d 31, 50 P.3d 743; People v. Coffman and Marlow (2004) 34 Cal.4th 1, 50-51, 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 710, 96 P.3d Here, defendant fil......
  • People v. Letteer, No. H021920.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 27, 2002
    ...(1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 846, 851, 16 Cal.Rptr.2d 641.) 5. A similar issue was recently decided in People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 805-809, 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31, 50 P.3d 743. There, the trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress evidence and dismissed the ca......
  • People v. Riva, No. B157868.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2003
    ...v. Superior Court (Zolnay) (1975) 15 Cal.3d 729, 733-734, 125 Cal.Rptr. 798, 542 P.2d 1390. 17. People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 805, 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31, 50 P.3d 18. See for example, People v. Woodard (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 107, 111, 182 Cal.Rptr. 254. 19. In re Albe......
  • Wilson v. Parker, Covert & Chidester, No. S097444.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 1, 2002
    ...sustained. DISPOSITION The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed. WE CONCUR: GEORGE, C.J., KENNARD, BAXTER, CHIN and MORENO, JJ. 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31 CONCURRING OPINION BY BROWN, Although I concur with most of the majority's reasoning, I write separately because I find its distinction o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
59 cases
  • People v. Panah, No. S045504.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 14, 2005
    ...claim is not properly before us on this automatic appeal following a judgment of death"]; People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 802, 123 Cal. Rptr.2d 31, 50 P.3d 743; People v. Coffman and Marlow (2004) 34 Cal.4th 1, 50-51, 17 Cal.Rptr.3d 710, 96 P.3d Here, defendant fil......
  • People v. Letteer, No. H021920.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 27, 2002
    ...(1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 846, 851, 16 Cal.Rptr.2d 641.) 5. A similar issue was recently decided in People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 805-809, 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31, 50 P.3d 743. There, the trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress evidence and dismissed the ca......
  • People v. Riva, No. B157868.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2003
    ...v. Superior Court (Zolnay) (1975) 15 Cal.3d 729, 733-734, 125 Cal.Rptr. 798, 542 P.2d 1390. 17. People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 805, 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31, 50 P.3d 18. See for example, People v. Woodard (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 107, 111, 182 Cal.Rptr. 254. 19. In re Albe......
  • Wilson v. Parker, Covert & Chidester, No. S097444.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 1, 2002
    ...sustained. DISPOSITION The judgment of the Court of Appeal is affirmed. WE CONCUR: GEORGE, C.J., KENNARD, BAXTER, CHIN and MORENO, JJ. 123 Cal.Rptr.2d 31 CONCURRING OPINION BY BROWN, Although I concur with most of the majority's reasoning, I write separately because I find its distinction o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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